In this economy, people over 55 are planning to work beyond retirement age. Retirees, who find inflation whittling away at their income, want to return to the workforce full- or part-time. But it’s a changing world out there. You’ll be competing with younger job-hunters, who have grown up dealing with the super-fast pace of technology. Plus, businesses are adding or upgrading their systems to stay competitive. They need people who are willing to learn and adapt to that technology.
And that can be you, if you’re willing to put in some work refreshing your skills.
If your computer skills are out of date, or non-existent, now’s the time to master new ones. It’s not as difficult as you may think, and a little effort can yield huge rewards not only in the workplace, but for your confidence as well. Even better: you can get training at little or no cost.
Get Into a “Learning” Mindset.
Most important is an attitude adjustment. Many seniors are fond of saying that they “don’t need to know anything about computers”. Others say they’re afraid of or don’t like computers, or can’t learn. But they learned to use cable TV, microwave ovens and cell phones, right? Everything new is awkward at first — you just need a willingness to learn and a patient teacher. You may have a relative who’s willing to teach you, but he or she may not have the time to give you the attention you need. And remember that you learn by doing. You acquire skills by practicing.
Where to Start: Resources.
The first place to try is your local senior center or the YMCA. Many have free or very low-cost computer classes where you can learn the basics of computers. Some even teach more advanced subjects, such as Microsoft Office, a popular tool of most businesses. If you don’t have a computer, they usually have computers you can use. And don’t forget to check your local community college or adult education centers for non-credit courses. They often have discounted tuition for seniors.
Many cities have state employment offices or Career Centers that offer free computer instruction. Check with the one in your town.
A lot of people feel more comfortable learning in the privacy of home. If that’s you, try an online program like GFCLearnFree. This completely free step-by-step training site offers easy instruction in Computer Basics, Microsoft Windows 7 and 8 Basics, Email, SmartPhones, iPads, Facebook, and much more. Be sure to take the course in Internet Safety to protect your information online. Can’t type? There’s a Typing Tutor course. All these courses let you set your own pace and your own hours. They even include helpful videos. Find GFCLearnFree at gfclearnfree.org.
You can also find step-by-step instruction books in the local library. Ask about the “For Dummies” series, for instance. Most libraries have computers you can use for free while you’re there.
Take Advantage of Employer Training.
If you’re employed and your company is adding new computer systems, the company is most likely going to train everyone to use them. Even among younger users, there’s a tendency to complain about how the old system worked perfectly well. Don’t fall into that trap! Your enthusiasm to learn something new not only speaks well of you to your employer, but can open your mind to learning. During training, pay attention and don’t be shy about asking questions. You’re probably only saying what everyone else is thinking.
If you have — or want — the kind of job that takes you on the road, the new phones and tablet computers are indispensable. You can make and receive texts and pictures, check and send email, and run basic office software while you’re away from your home or office. You’ll need a “mobile hotspot” available from your cellphone carrier, which lets you connect to the internet anywhere. Data plans and mobile hotspots cost more than plain old cellphone service, but if your job depends on staying in touch you’ll need them. Your employer may even pay the cost.
Go for It!
Learning new computer skills, or improving on your present ones, can make you more marketable in today’s workplace. Even better, increasing your computer savvy can empower you personally and keep your mind agile and active. Don’t look at upgrading your skills as a chore — it can be a valuable adventure. +